Hepatitis B is a form of liver disease caused by a DNA-virus, called hepatitis B virus (HBV).
Infection can result in an inflammation of the liver parenchyma with various clinical
manifestations ranging from an asymptomatic course to jaundice. After contact with the virus
the immunological response of the host determines the clinical outcome leading to either
viral clearance or a chronic infection.
Although several factors are responsible for the development of chronic HBV-infection, one of
the factors is a weak and transient CD8+ T-cell responses after HBV infection. In chronic
hepatitis B, inflammation can lead to scarring which is the driving force to fibrosis and
cirrhosis. Some immunological parameters, like a newly discovered subset of IL-17 producing T
helper cells (Th17 cells), may influence the disease progression of HBV. In the cirrhotic
patient, eventually there is an increased risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) leading to
Recent literature in Asian patients with chronic hepatitis B showed that serum HBV viral load
is a strong predictor for the development of cirrhosis, independent of hepatitis B e- antigen
status and serum alanine transaminase level. It is unclear whether these results can be
extrapolated to non-Asian (Caucasian and African) populations because of differences in host
(HLA background) and viral (HBV genotype) factors.
The aim of this study is to elucidate the question whether historic HBV viral load is
associated with the risk of HBV-related cirrhosis or mortality in a cohort of non-Asian
individuals with chronic hepatitis B infection.